Amid reports of lower cargo volumes across much of Sub-Saharan Africa because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mozambican port of Beira has surprisingly recorded a big increase in total cargo volumes for 2020.
Dutch operator Cornelder reported a huge 46% rise in total port volumes to 3.1 Mt on the back of Beira strengthening its position as an entrepôt for the landlocked countries of Malawi and Zimbabwe to the west, which are connected to the port by separate railways. In April, the CEO of Cornelder de Mozambique, Jan de Vries, said that he expected Beira to handle 2.5 Mt in 2020, which itself would have been a record.
Food, clinker and particularly fertiliser imports drove the increase as traders switched their business to Beira from other ports in Southern Africa, particularly in South Africa, where operations were affected by lockdown restrictions. Tight COVID controls at the Beitbridge border crossing between Zimbabwe and South Africa also deterred trade via that route.
At the same time, steady infrastructural improvements, including dredging work and the completion of a five lane highway, have made Beira more attractive. The port handled its first Panamax container ship last May, the MSC GINA with 4,056 TEU capacity, and Panamax vessels now make regular calls at the port.
Beira has three terminals – grain, general cargo and container. There was a modest fall in container turnover, from 259,938 TEU in 2019 to 255,459 TEU last year but this was a far smaller decrease than in most other ports in the region. The container terminal can handle 300,000 TEU/year, but Cornelder aims to eventually increase this to 700,000 TEU/year.
The company has announced that it will dredge access channels, commission new cargo handling equipment and increase storage capacity at the container terminal this year, so it will be interesting to see if further growth can be achieved again in the near future.